July 20 News Digest

 This is a compilation of political headlines assembled from Tennessee news organizations by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Haslam Seeks Wide-Ranging Weigh-In of Perspectives on School Vouchers (TNR)

Vouchers for students will be among the foremost topics of education reform talks Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam plans to have this summer, but the governor said Tuesday he wants to hear all sides of the issue.

Words of Warning (Memphis Daily News)

FedEx Express president and chief executive officer David J. Bronczek told a group of state legislators and elected leaders from 15 states that the U.S. needs an “oil strategy long term.”… The four-day conference has been a mix of discussions about business at the national and international level and government at the state level.

State announces transition funding for local planning (Nashville Business Journal)

The state of Tennessee has announced that transition funding will be available for local planning services, which is being eliminated as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to reduce spending. Funding for local planning was cut as part of the overhaul of the state’s Economic and Community Development Department.

Small Towns Can Apply to State for Planning Grants (Associated Press)

Small towns that no longer receive planning help from the state due to job cuts are eligible to apply for $1 million in grants. Gov. Bill Haslam announced in April that the Department of Economic and Community Development was eliminating jobs and would no longer provide planning services to towns that are too small to have their own planning departments.

Downtown developers to be honored (Commercial Appeal)

The Center City Commission will honor its former leader and his wife, applaud One Commerce Square’s investor group and hear from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday. Jeff Sanford, the commission’s former president and CEO, and Cynthia Ham, chief of public relations at archer>malmo and former Memphis in May International Festival CEO, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Education Commissioner Plans Less-Bureaucratic Department (WPLN-Radio)

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says his department must go from double-checking paperwork to being more pro-active. The new commissioner says his own state Department of Education for too long has been a “compliance” organization. “Too much of our work over time has been helping schools and districts fill out forms, or even worse, on occasion making them fill out forms.”

Rural schools need parents as big allies (Tennessean/Sisk)

SCORE summit at Lipscomb looks at hurdles Parents’ low expectations for their children is one of the biggest hurdles facing rural school districts, state officials said Tuesday. “We’ve got figure out how to bring parents along,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said.

Tennessee sees revenue revival (Tennessean/Sisk)

Despite shaky economy, sales tax collections on rise Tennessee has begun to bounce back from a steep decline in tax collections that began with the recession in 2008, and officials are predicting continued growth despite a slow economy. After two straight years of decline, the state expects to see a revenue increase when it finishes closing out its books for the 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

TBI probing lawmaker involvement in nurse cases (Associated Press/Johnson)

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether lawmakers improperly intervened with a state board to help three nurse practitioners whose licenses were suspended. The case grew out of a TBI investigation of fatal overdoses among patients of the now defunct Appalachian Medical Center.

TN nursing board under scrutiny over discipline case (Tennessean/Wilemon)

TBI examines lawmakers’ influence in disciplinary action The independence of the Board of Nursing to regulate the profession is under question as state investigators probe whether strong-arm tactics by lawmakers caused the board to rescind disciplinary actions. At least two lawmakers, Rep. Tony Shipley and Rep. Dale Ford, pressed for the board to reconsider the suspension of three nurse practitioners accused of over-prescribing narcotics.

Members of Tenn. assembly, nurses under investigation by TBI (Herald-Courier)

Some members of the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Health are under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The reason for the investigation – possible misconduct involving the cases of some Tri-Cities area nurses. The three nurses involved in the investigation – Bobby Reynolds II, David Stout, Jr. and Tina Killebrew – used to work for Appalachian Medical Center in Johnson City.

TBI probes legislators’ actions to aid nurses from Johnson City clinic (Times-News)

Tennessee Health Department officials and some state legislators — including Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport — are being investigated for possible misconduct and false reporting by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the agency launched an investigation June 22.

State legislator insists he’s clean in TBI nursing probe (City Paper/Woods)

A state legislator insisted Tuesday he did nothing wrong in pressuring health officials to restore the licenses of three nurses who had been accused of over-prescribing medication and contributing to the deaths of two patients at a clinic where his sister worked. “If I did anything wrong, I probably should be in jail,” said Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, who contends the nurses were innocent of the charges against them.

TN is warned credit rating could drop (Associated Press/Veiga)

Moody’s Investors Service warned Tuesday that it probably will lower the credit rating on Tennessee and four other states if it downgrades the U.S. government’s credit rating. The credit rating agency said it has placed on review for possible downgrade the triple-A bond ratings of Tennessee, Maryland, New Mexico, South Carolina and Virginia.

State mental health cuts shutter local treatment program (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Thousands of developmentally disabled Tennesseans must fend for themselves starting Aug. 12, when a local treatment center will stop admitting patients after losing a crucial state grant that funded clinical care for decades. Chattanooga’s TEAM Centers Inc. office has notified 22 employees — including three clinical psychologists, two social workers and a developmental pediatrician — they will be laid off effective Aug. 15, according to two people close to the situation.

College Street closure could last more than a month (Leaf Chronicle

Officials: Sewer and storm drainage is 38 feet underground College Street will likely remain closed at North Second Street for another month or more, Tennessee Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday. The Clarksville Street Department shut down the intersection indefinitely Friday amid concerns over sinking asphalt.

School Choice a Hot Topic at Legislators’ Conference (TN Report)

Tennessee lawmakers, who approved a slew of sweeping education reforms this spring, hinted this week at the Southern Legislative Conference that they’re not done yet. The next battle appears to be over school choice.

Lawmaker honored for working to help military families (Leaf Chronicle)

The Department of Defense recently recognized state Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, for his work on legislation benefiting military families. Johnson received the award in part for pushing House Bill 1106 across the finish line this year.

Many States Grappling With Amazon Tax Issue (TN Report)

It was formally billed as an e-commerce discussion, but the meeting at the Southern Legislative Conference in Memphis quickly became an Amazon.com discussion. Amazon is becoming the focus of states wrestling with what to do about online sales where sales taxes go uncollected.

Cleveland: Committees to redraw local government lines (TFP/Higgins)

The next step for local governments after the 2010 U.S. census is about to begin: Redrawing the lines that determine the districts of the Bradley County Commission, the Cleveland City Council and county and city school boards. Political boundaries for federal, state and local governments are redrawn every 10 years after a national census.

Blackburn Says Constiutents Want Cut, Cap and Balance (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Congressman Marsha Blackburn brought emails from her constituents onto the House floor today as she argued for the GOP budget bill known as Cut, Cap and Balance. The Brentwood Republican says her correspondence shows that citizens are watching the debate.

Reps. Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn help pass House debt measure (TN/Bewley)

Tennessee’s Republican U.S. House members helped pass a plan Tuesday night that would cut federal spending by trillions of dollars and require Congress to take steps to balance the federal budget in exchange for increasing the nation’s debt limit. But the 234-190 vote may mark the end of the road for the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act,”“which was co-sponsored by Tennessee Reps.

Postmaster says days are numbered for Saturday mail delivery (USA Today)

Falling mail volume and soaring red ink may soon doom Saturday mail delivery and prompt three-day-a-week delivery within 15 years, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warns. Donahoe’s forecast is based on a projected $8.3 billion loss this year as the drift from paper to electronic communication hammers the Postal Service.

IQT deal officially dead (Nashville Post/Duncan)

Well, it looks like it’s too late now to wonder about what might have been. What was supposed to be the one of, if not the, largest corporate relocation in downtown’s history has, according to Metro’s economic and community development point man, officially fizzled.

Official: IQT’s Nashville plans are over (Nashville Business Journal)

Matt Wiltshire, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, announced today that conversations with IQT to bring 900 jobs to Nashville have ended. “We are no longer in conversations with IQT regarding locating their operations here.

Metro looks past IQT flop (Tennessean/Ward, Cass)

A deal to bring 900 new technology jobs to Nashville died Tuesday, before the city paid out any of the $1.61 million in incentives promised. While city and business leaders say they’re disappointed, they insist a demand for technology workers remains, and IQT’s problems didn’t come up as the Metro Council approved two incentive deals for other, better-known companies Tuesday night.

IQT co-founder’s former company ‘would have raised questions’ (N. Biz Journal)

The city’s decision today to abruptly cancel talks with IQT Inc. came one day after Nashville’s top economic development official said the city should have further investigated the company and its founders. The announcement came after inquiries from the Nashville Business Journal regarding IQT co-founder David A. Mortman’s previous venture that unraveled amid allegations of securities fraud and disputes with investors in the late 1990s.

IQT Will Not Come to Nashville (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The technology support company IQT will not be bringing 900 jobs to Nashville according to an announcement from the Mayor’s office today. Last month, Metro made a 1.6 million dollar deal to lure IQT to Nashville.

Memphis school board delays class over funding (Associated Press)

The school board has decided to indefinitely delay the start of class for Memphis City Schools this fall in a dispute over money with the City Council. The board voted 8-1 Tuesday night to postpone school until the city hands over $55 million in tax revenue it says it has set aside for the system this coming year, according to The Commercial Appeal.

Board delays school year’s start indefinitely in demand for city funds (CA/Roberts)

Classes for Memphis City Schools will not start this fall until the City Council deposits $55 million — the amount the city has budgeted for schools from tax revenue — in the district’s account, school board members decided Tuesday night. The board voted 8-1 to delay the start of the school year indefinitely, putting the system in the limelight as the district attempts to force city leaders to make good on funding promises.

MCS Board Votes To Delay Aug. 8 School Start (Memphis Daily News)

The stakes got higher Tuesday evening, July 19, in the funding dispute between the city of Memphis and the Memphis City Schools system. MCS board members voted 8-1 Tuesday to delay the Aug. 8 start of the school year until the city pays a disputed amount of money the school system says the city owes for the fiscal year that began July 1. MCS officials and Memphis City Council members are scheduled to meet Aug. 2, six days before what was to be the start of the school year.

MCS Board Votes To Delay Opening City Schools Indefinitely (WREG-TV Memphis)

Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash called it a “bad day” for Memphis City Schools. Other administrators said it was the first time to their knowledge that any action of this type had been taken.

MCS Board Delays Start of School Year in Money Clash with City Council (WPTY)

Could this be an endless summer for more than 100,000 children in the City of Memphis? The Memphis City School Board voted 8-1 on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, to delay the start of school indefinitely, as MCS fights with the City of Memphis over tens of millions of dollars in school funding.

2011-2012 school year delayed indefinitely (WMC-TV Memphis)

The Memphis City Schools board voted to indefinitely delay the 2011-2012 school year at an emergency meeting Tuesday night. Board members said they want the city of Memphis to pay millions of dollars owed to the school system before they will allow classes to resume.

Deciphering the Politics of the MCS Delay (WHBQ-TV Memphis)

Following Tuesday night’s historic vote by the Memphis City School Board, Fox 13’s Ernie Freeman sat down with Conservative Radio Host Ben Ferguson and Democratic Political Strategist Matt Kuhn to discuss what’s next for Memphis City Schools.

Recent TCAP scores called ‘shocking’ (Marshall County Tribune)

Scores for statewide tests recently taken by elementary and middle school students were released this month, causing dismay among school board members last week. “We have a crisis,” exclaimed board member Barbara Kennedy as she studied a chart comparing scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests. Schools Director Roy Dukes agreed.

Maryville seeks community input on school zoning changes (News-Sentinel/Alapo)

Maryville seeks input on school zoning changes Maryville City school officials this year will redraw elementary and intermediate school zones and they’re inviting the community to participate in the process. This week, maps with proposed adjustments will be available at elementary schools, Maryville Intermediate School and on the school system’s website.

Meth arrests on the rise (State Gazette)

Over the last several weeks, the Dyersburg Police Department has seen an increase in meth-related arrests. Since June 29, Dyersburg Police have arrested 19 suspects on charges related to methamphetamine. The State Gazette noticed a rise in the trend and looked into to the details of some of the cases.

Lenoir City officials find meth lab in apartment (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Officials in Lenoir City discovered a meth lab in an apartment building after a maintenance man notified officials when he saw something suspicious. According to the Lenoir City Police Chief, officials went inside the apartment on Kelly Lane close to 6:30 p.m.

Arizona: Officials, Fed Up With U.S. Efforts, Seek Donations to Build Fence (NYT)

Americans upset about illegal immigration have a new outlet for their rage: a fund set up by the State of Arizona that will use private donations to build a border wall. Critics call the state’s effort to build its own border barriers a foolhardy, feel-good campaign that will have little practical effect on illegal border crossings.

Minnesota: Lawmakers Called to Special Session to End Impasse (New York Times)

Lawmakers in Minnesota were called back to the state Capitol on Tuesday afternoon for a special session intended to end a budget impasse that has brought state business to a standstill since July 1. For months, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, have disagreed about how to solve a projected $5 billion deficit, with Republicans favoring spending cuts and Mr. Dayton calling for a tax increase. The standoff dragged on, even as a new budget year arrived and 22,000 state workers were sent home, parks and rest stops were closed, and many state services suspended.

Rhode Island: City in Rhode Island Asks Retirees to Sacrifice (New York Times)

The retirees came from near and far, gathering in a muggy auditorium here to listen to an urgent pitch: give back a big chunk of your pension or risk losing it all. This city of 19,000 is broke and headed for bankruptcy, partly because it has promised retired police and firefighters millions of dollars in pensions and benefits that it cannot begin to afford.

OPINION

Editorial: Learning in the virtual world (Commercial Appeal)

The virtual classroom is an innovative tool that has the potential to expand educational opportunities and increase students’ exposure to all kinds of knowledge. We can’t help but raise an eyebrow, though, about a new Tennessee law passed last spring that created the Tennessee Virtual Academy.

Times Editorial: Financial reform, or not? (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Wall Street and big commercial banks and their ever-ready Republican and Chamber of Commerce defenders vehemently opposed the Dodd-Frank Act financial reform act when it was proposed in the wake of the nation’s catastrophic financial implosion of 2008. Since the sweeping bill was approved by Congress a year ago, its opponents have continued at every turn to resist or sabotage the work of writing new regulations to safeguard the nation’s financial system from another casino-style investment debacle.

Free-Press Editorial: A way to balance U.S. budget (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

What is the primary responsibility of our representatives and senators in Congress? It surely is to provide for our national security. If our country is at war, Congress must provide whatever it takes to win.

Editorial: Averting disaster more important than posturing (News-Sentinel)

Congress is teetering on the edge of an economic precipice and threatening to plunge the whole country into the abyss. Republicans and Democrats must come up with an agreement to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 to stave off default on America’s financial obligations. According to the White House, the deal has to be in place by Friday so Congress will have time to actually pass the legislation in time to meet the deadline.

Editorial: Relief from old debts (Commercial Appeal)

While Washington is consumed with the struggle over how to reduce the nation’s debt, one member of Congress is promoting an idea that would help struggling individuals keep from being pulled into court by their very old debts. The bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis would clarify a principle already established by law — that it is not permissible to sue or threaten to sue an individual whose debt has exceeded the statute of limitations.

Frank Munger: It’s past time for NNSA to reveal Y-12 contract plan (News-Sentinel)

Back in March 2010, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced plans to combine the management contracts for two of its nuclear weapons production plants — Y-12 in Oak Ridge and Pantex in Amarillo, Texas — and possibly include some of the work done at Savannah River in South Carolina. The announcement created a lot of anxiety and anticipation and a ton of questions from host communities, potential bidders, elected officials, union representatives, environmental regulators, etc.

Editorial: Hurting Poor Students (New York Times)

Extremists in Congress have long wanted to gut the spending restrictions in Title I, a federal law dating back to the 1960s that underwrites extra help for disadvantaged schoolchildren. A bill, approved by a House committee last week, would do just that, damaging one of most important civil rights programs in the country.